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govCMS, moving mountains

So far, 51 govCMS websites are live and another 12 are in development.

Alfred D 28 January 2016

govCMS going strong

govCMS was launched last year to give Australian government agencies access to a robust and proven content management system (CMS) so government departments all around Australia could use the same underlying CMS. Developed from a partnership between Acquia and the Online Services Branch of the Department of Finance, govCMS is built on the award-winning Drupal software, a system that’s easy to use, stable, highly secure and open source (no license fees).

So far, 51 govCMS websites are live and another 12 are in development.

The government-wide solution solves the problem of hundreds of different CMSs being used by different agencies. John Sheridan, the Australian government’s chief technology officer and procurement co-ordinator for the Department of Finance, told The Mandarin, “We discovered that proprietary software had made it very difficult for us to be flexible or responsive. We wanted to move forward from that.” The goal: one platform across all levels of government to streamline processes and deliver cost-savings.

The benefits

govCMS is a great example of a technological initiative that delivers multiple benefits, to multiple users – from government agencies to their website users and Aussie tax payers. The fact that it’s open-source and cloud-based are two ways in which the solution is innovative. It’s also flexible, an ‘out-of-the-box’ solution that can be customised.

Sharyn Clarkson, assistant secretary of the Online Services Branch told The Mandarin: “Our aim is to take all the hard work out of it for agencies.” Using govCMS, government departments can build their new sites themselves or bring in Drupal/govCMS experts like Salsa to build/migrate their site for them, or in consultation with them. 

With more and more departments coming across, govCMS is delivering. Last year, IP Australia migrated its Professional Standards Board (PSB) website to govCMS. This development demonstrated govCMS’s speed (the site was migrated in two weeks) and its flexibility — using an ‘out-of-box’ solution and adding on extra, customised functionality.

The IP Australia story is common…an out-of-date CMS that’s no longer supported. This is a situation that many government departments (and companies, for that matter) find themselves in (Salsa’s worked on a few of these). In the case of IP Australia, the site build and migration was handled in-house by the department’s team of eight developers. Scott Ashwin, assistant director of IP Australia’s digital delivery, told The Mandarin that the development showed “you can build something agile, very quickly. It’s something we just couldn’t do with our old system.” Ashwin also touched on another extremely important advantage of govCMS: “Having Finance already vet the govCMS platform does away with the need for duplicated risk management. The work has been done for us...” In 2016, IP Australia will roll out its other sites.

Another site that went live in the last part of 2015 was the Department of Communications. Like IP Australia, they added to govCMS with a customised module, in this case the ‘Have your Say’ module for people to submit comments. This module can be used by other agencies. In fact, as an open-source system, any modules built on govCMS are available on It’s a truly global community.

The future of govCMS

Going forward, govCMS promises to deliver for Australian government agencies. “What govCMS allows is faster delivery of services, more flexibility. More effective use of public money. This platform has made these things easier,” John Sheridan said.

Salsa is excited to be one of Acquia’s preferred partners and to be embarking on the govCMS journey with many of our clients, and meeting new clients who’ll use our Drupal and govCMS expertise. We think it’s a fantastic initiative that will deliver on all fronts — customer experience, technological ease and cost-savings.

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